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Rebels date icing on cake as Browne revels in Clare switch

WHEN Niall Browne made the decision to switch to Clare from Kildare last winter, it was with days like tomorrow and a date with the All-Ireland champions in mind.

Browne, who qualified to play for the Banner through his Cooraclare-born mother, decided he wanted front-line inter-county exposure -- which Clare boss Micheal McDermott was more than happy to give it to him.

The seeds were sown on a trip to Australia, where Clare footballers Laurence Healy and Gordon Kelly got in his ear about throwing his lot in with the Banner, and he finally relented after a couple of seasons knocking about Kieran McGeeney's Lilywhites panel.

It was a significant commitment for the wing-forward-cum-midfielder. The journey from Kildare takes almost two hours and he does it every Thursday after a day's work as a recruitment manager for Manpower. There are usually weekends involved too, but when he lines out against Cork, it will surely be all worthwhile.

"It's a big commitment," he agreed. "But I've been made very welcome and enjoyed every minute of it. I have a long-standing connection with Clare through my mother so I was happy to come down."

Clare's league campaign wasn't kind as they battled with injuries and toyed with different combinations. However, it ended in hope as the Banner took a point from Wicklow in notoriously inhospitable Aughrim.

"Every player at this level is quality," said the Two Mile House clubman, who captained Kildare at minor and U-21 level.

"I have more than met my match in our games. There were some very good teams in our division like Wicklow and Roscommon."

When Clare's campaign comes to an end, it's all hands to the pump for the club. They have lost two of the last four junior finals in Kildare and are determined to put that right. But that's for another day, and tomorrow Clare's cause will get his full attention.

"We're massive outsiders. Cork are All-Ireland champions and the best team in the country, but we're going there to put in the best possible performance we can and see where that brings."

Irish Independent